the luggage story

There are a million subjects one could blog about – and while I prefer those that add a value in some way or another, I sometimes get carried away to turn this page into a tumbleblog.

Social networking services like Twitter, Facebook or even the commented links on Delicious often help to substitute these tumbleblog-tendencies in me, but there’s this question I’ve asked myself lately which just requires some feedback:

What’s the best baggage (luggage, case, travel bag)?

Yeah, what kind of travel bag(s) are you using for your travels? Non-wheeled luggage? Wheeled luggage? 2-wheeled? 4-wheeled? Backpacks? Duffels? wheeled duffels? Sports Bags? Trolleys? Spinners?….aiii – the classification in itself is confusing to a point where you just end up thinking: no way, maaaan, anything spacious will do.

Well, does it?

Now, let me pls rule out that I am by no means going to use those *insert politically incorrect term here* bags for my luggage. At least not for my next flight! :-)

Having said that, let me tell you about my Koffer-history. I grew up on using 4-wheeled upright Samsonite lightweight suitcases. My father for some reason one day decided to go for more durable cases, and back then during the early 1970s, he decided to switch from old-fashioned, fibreglass 1960s styled cases to modern Samsonite suitcases.
These Samsonites used to be nice up until the early 1990s when more and more people started travelling and suddenly even the local supermarkets starting selling decent trolley systems. And while my old Samsonite actually weighs around 6kg alone when empty (!), it weighs around 30kg when filled with normal clothes. And hey! I am tall. Tall people have bigger clothes = need for space = *should* be allocated a higher luggage weight quota. Reaching those 20kgs is a pain whenever I pack my stuff together for a longer journey, and while I often end up having around 23kgs, I am always extremly annoyed about the fact that the box actually consumes a 1/4 of the allocated weight quota.

Clearly, something needs to be done about this.

Way back in 1997, I spent my first salary on a 2-wheeled Eastpak Warehouse travel bag like the one below.

eastpak warehouse

This bag is just awesome as it offers a volume of 140 liters at a decent size of 84x45x38 cm. Yes, 38 cm width which means you can comfortably pull this bag on a narrow train aisle.
The downside of course is that there’s a chaos in this bag (you can actually just throw everything in it and move on) and that the pulling-mechanism is somewhat annoying. If you’re 6ft4 tall, all you want is long enough luggage so that you don’t have to dislocate your shoulder whenever you want to reach for your luggage. And: this is Germany. We do have a lot of US-American brands on our market here, but there are many more interesting products from the States which aren’t available here. The backpack for my 15,4″ notebook actually is a High Sierra model I was given by a friend last year who bought it in the States. Imagine I had checked ALL available laptop backpacks on sale in Germany, and none of them was good enough. Again, if you’re a tall person, finding the right luggage that uses the space provided by a longer back may sometimes be a tedious taks.

Back to my bag which has been used intensively since 1997: Just the other day while flying to Sweden, I saw this older US-American couple in front of me who were apparently touring Europe and who had very nice trolleys. This trolley technology is just perfect, and when you look at how the market for travel accessories developed over the recent years, you’ll see that more and more shops are offering those trolleys in different sizes, shapes, materials and weights.

So I started my search with the typical “what if I had enough money” question so see what’s the best product out there – and then move on to a more affordable solution.

rimowa salsa

These RIMOWA trolleys, either made out of aluminium or polycarbonate are sexy indeed, but while the alumium ones only look good (and still weigh almost as much as their fibreglass counterparts from Samsonite, Delsey & Co), the polycarbonate ones are a wobbly affair. I just don’t trust their stability as I’ve seen quite a few “refurbished” polycarbonate RIMOWAs for sale on ebay that all had the same problem: a broken corner. Quality? Well, RIMOWA gives a 30year guarantee on their products – which explains why you would spend at leat EUR 270,- on a 82l suitcase which just weighs 3,5 kgs. Nice gear, but not for me.

So I continued my search and came across this model by Eastpak (huuuh! again?) which basically looks like my older Eastpak bag with the difference that it’s a little bit smaller (105l vs 140l) and comes with a few smart details such as the trolley function and separated compartments:

gudenkauf 20101003-600
Eastpak Godfather L, 78x40x30cm, 105l, 3.8kg 4,8 kg! It’s 4,8 kg instead of 3,8kg as declared on Eastpak’s website & the flyers/badges that came shipped with this bag.

Is this my next bag for the coming years? Will my 3-weeks-luggage fit into this system and be my ultimate travel gear which I can pull from here around the rest of the world? That is: travelling for me includes everything from a comfy taxi ride, small aisles in trains, careless luggage handlers at airports to carrying this bag through never-ending stair cases and having it on my laps for a 5h ride in an over-crowded matatu. And then of course there’s this hotel across town, which means I’ll have to pull this baby through the neighborhood on never-ending streets with questionable sidewalks…

Obviously, trying to find the perfect equipment for a mixture of all those tasks is worth blogging – and a perfect distraction from other, much more important tasks that I am good at procrastinating (and which have kept me away from blogging lately, damn it..).

So what does your luggage look like? Any feedback is appreciated! :-)

7 comments » Write a comment

  1. I gave up on buying a good suitcase a long time a go. Two round trips to Kenya will damage even the sturdiest suitcase. Either the wheel comes of, the handle gets broken, zipper gets damaged or the bag gets lost.

    I am just happy to buy a cheap bag when I’m going to Kenya, knowing that if anything happens to it, my loss is minimised.

  2. I have a similar bag to the Eastpak, but it’s an Eagle Creek which has served me for 6 years and I don’t travel light at all.

  3. I also had a Samsonite a long time ago as a kid, living in Nairobi. Actually, it wasn’t a Samsonite, but a (Chinese?) “Sampsonite”, which looked the same, but cost less. What happened? Exactly as the guy above said: Smashed to debris, after two or three flights through Nairobi airport.
    After that, I got myself an aluminium one in Germany. Looked like a cargo-container, but indestructable. I had a Jua-Kali workshop fix a hook on it, so I could lock it with a padlock. And although it took the shape of a matatu-body after a while, the thing lasted me until today (I still have it in the attick somewhere, although it’s now pensioned).
    The best thing about an aluminium-suitcase is, you can put all your stickers on it and they sustain like hell. The bad thing is, you’ve got to carry it yourself. No wheels on that one, bwana.

    Now that I’m spending my entire working-time either onboard aircraft or within a hotel room, I needed something else. Usually, I don’t carry that much heavy stuff with me, but I need a suitcase which is strong and light and fits into the trunk of an average rent-a-car.
    So I’m back to the Samsonite (not Sampsonite this time, despite I’m living in China).

    So first of all, I bought one in a PRAKTIKER – D.I.Y.-mart in Germany. They had them on sale there; three different sizes, starting from 9,99 for the basic overnight-size, 16,99 for the type of size you need for a couple of days’ trip, and a huge one for 34,99 which is good for a whole family.
    I decided for the small and the large one, figuring that I still needed to move a lot of my stuff around at that time.
    What happened? Well, what you’d expect from cheap shit like that. Firt of all, the big one: it was wrecked after the first trip! Didn’t keep it’s shape, but looked like a shopping-bag, with it’s formerly tidy cargo in the shape of a pile of stuff. The plastic hinges were coming loose, and the carrying-handle broken off. Fortunately, I still had the receipt, and claimed my money back for that stupid thing. Guess what, they didn’t even ask any questions at the cashier, but refunded me without hesitation.

    The small one was a bit more durable, after I screwed a wheel back one which had fallen off while walking through the airport. And the retractable handle sometimes jammed when you pulled it out. The case was small enough to go through as cabin baggage, so maybe that contributed to the fact that it lasted for more journeys. The problem was, that for ome reason you couldn’t walk properly with it. If you pulled it behind yourself, it was swaying to the left and right with each step you made, and toppled over whenever the floor was uneven. Really annoying. So annoying, that it was more convenient to either carry it, or put it onto a trolley. And then, why use it in the first place. Finally, I threw it into the rubbish, tired and pissed off with it.

    So finally, I decided to cut out being cheap. If you’re going to use your suitcase often, then it’s like getting a pair of shoes: Buy cheap, and all you get is gonna be cheap.
    So I invested US$220 in a Samsonite (not Sampsonite this time). That got me something in the medium price-range of what they offered.

    The thing has a really great design. Inside the lid, you can put your shirts and jacket, without them getting in contact with the rest of your stuff (e.g. shoes); you have some ccoat-hangers and a box for a tie. The rest of the interior can be divided in two sides if you like; otherwise, you have a cool design of straps to hold everything in place. The wheels allow you to roll the thing upright or sideways, with retractable handles that won’t get smashed off anymore when some loaders throw it ontothe conveyor-belt next time. And the space inside is great; much better design than any previous model I had, where the wheels or some re-inforcements extended inwards and were in the way.
    The two combination-locks are quite strong (at least, they won’t open accidentally like other suitcase-locks usually do), and the warranty entitles me to a free new one if this case gets broken.

    I’ve been using it for at least 100 flights now within the last few months, and so far it’s still perfect. Apart from inevitable signs of wear, like scratches and dust, the wheels are still turning. The handle is a bit loose by now, but still serves its function very well.
    And as far as the weight is concerned: Yes, it is a little bit heavier than those nylon-boxes, but the difference is just around two or three kilos. My suitcase weighs around 25kg when I go somewhere for a week. When I’m on a business trip, the weight is no object, I can take as much as I want.

    Otherwise, “big” airlines usually allow that much tolerance at the check-in. Just smile at that gay who sits behind the counter, or flirt with the 56-year old lady. They can do a lot for you, if they want. Don’t line up at the counter with the beautiful 25-year old plastic doll; the chance is too high that she’s an arrogant bitch!
    When you travel with one of those low-cost carriers: Well, yes, you’re gonna pay. But what do you expect for a 49-Euro-Ticket? Forget Ryanair, but Easyjet, AirBerlin, Germanwings and most others won’t kill you. Just give them the extra fifty Euros, and consider it as the TRUE price for your ticket. It’s still less than what Lufthansa would have charged.
    Last option: Fly Business Class on any airline, and you’re entitled to 30kg. Then take twice that with you, and if they say something, yell at them!

  4. I got a travel bag from Kenneth cole that i have had for the past 5 years, hasnt let me down. Its similar to this
    Though i suspect that it would be too small for your needs…their quality has worked well for me though. I use it more for domestic flights… Have you checked out ebags.com? there is lots of feedback there on most the bags that was helpful for me the last time i was shopping for one. The Victorinox brand seems sturdy..http://www.swissarmy.com/

  5. Waow, thx for the feedback gals & guys! Eagle Creak sounds good to me and I will also check out ebag. In fact, I was looking for such a feedback site, so ebag looks promising.
    Interesting to note that you are using a wheeled bag as well, and not a hardcase.

    @Dave: you should write an insight article on the airline business / working as a pilot and post it here one day :-)

  6. “refurbished” polycarbonate RIMOWAs for sale on ebay that all had the same problem: a broken corner.”

    There are several different polycarbonate luggage series from Rimowa, Salsa, Limbo, Samba and Tango and Tango Light are the current ones.

    Both Limbo and Samba are made with either black or aluminum “corners” so that they retain the look of the Aluminum Rimowa cases. Since both Limbo and Samba use the metal frame and locks from the aluminum series they retained the corners.

    Salsa, Tango and Tango Light do not have corner patches and you could not really patch the corners on them anyway as the molds for the Samba/Limbo series are different then the ones for the Salsa/Tango/Tango Light series.

  7. Ok, Ory’s hint towards an Eagle Creek bag made me look out for those ones – and right now I have narrowed my search down to the three different models:

    1. Eastpak Godfather L
    pro: size, weight, handles, 105 l
    con: doubledecker, requires more space to open (flipping to the side), ~ 190,- EUR

    2. Eagle Creek QRV Super Trunk
    pro: incredible size (145 l), durability, handles on every side, QRV = OffRoadVacation wheels
    con: weight (5,3kg), ~ 260,- EUR

    3. Eagle Creek QRV Trunk
    pro: size, handles, 115 l, QRV = OffRoadVacation wheels
    con: ~240,- EUR

    All three wheeled bags come with the most important feature that – for some strange reason – many other models do not have: plastic covers on all 4 corners + handles on more than one side which make these bags perfect for airport luggage handlers…